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Do some colleges waitlist/reject overqualified applicants? If so, which ones should I be aware of?
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I am wondering whether some colleges waitlist/rejects overqualified applicants. For instance, two years ago, UC Irvine, a lower tier UC waitlisted our top 10-15 students, but accepted students who weren't in that overqualified group. Is this a thing among colleges?

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3 answers

answered on[edited]
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Accepted answer

YES, this is a very normal occurrence at NEAR IVY private and public colleges because they want to protect their YIELD. Yield is the % of accepted students that actually matriculate into the college. It is well known that most elite colleges already know their applicants very well and their matriculation class profile for the last 10 or 20 years. They know who is most likely going to come if accepted and who isn't.

If a very smart applicant who is applying to all the IVYs applies to Tufts, Notre Dame, Emory, Georgetown, UVA, Michigan as safeties they have a high chance of getting into an IVY but rejected by some of the safety schools because those schools know that if they have all the checkboxes marked off to go to an IVY/Stanford/UChicago, they are not going to go to Tufts or Emory.

If all colleges accept all highly qualified candidates, then all the yields go down because top applicants get ZERO rejections to the 20 schools they apply to but only attend 1 (19 competing colleges lose yield value). And none of the colleges want low yields. Therefore IT IS in their best interest to reject many of the applicants to keep their acceptance rate as LOW AS POSSIBLE to keep their prestige factor up and simultaneously this PROTECTS their YIELD.

If you look at COLBY, why should their acceptance rate be 9% vs 20% which is less than Cornell, USC, and Berkeley? Is Colby that good? Not in my opinion. But it is well connected to all the Elite Private Prep Schools in the East Coast and one of the many Safety schools for top applicants. Colby knows that lots of Prep School kids are going to check off Colby as safety and not go because they want to get into an Ivy or at least a Willams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Bowdoin. They have no problem rejecting 91% of their applicants because it keeps the prestige factor sky-high. The class of 2005 at Colby had a 33% Admit rate in comparison.

If you need verification of this phenomenon watch about 20 random college acceptance videos from top students who get into Stanford and top Ivys. Many of them get rejected from Tufts and near Ivys and top liberal arts colleges because those colleges know that they are just safety schools to them.

SOON After I wrote this, I found a CV article on this topic and a list of all the schools that practice this.

https://blog.collegevine.com/what-is-yield-protection-tufts-syndrome/

Colleges know to practice yield protection

American University

Boston College

Boston University

Case Western Reserve University

Colby College

Franklin and Marshall

George Washington University

Grinnell College

Johns Hopkins University

Kenyon College

Lehigh University

New York University

Northeastern University

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rice University

Swarthmore College

Tulane University

Tufts University

University of California Davis

University of California Los Angeles

University of Chicago

University of Michigan

University of Southern California

Washington University in St. Louis

So a few things to note in addition to Cameron’s answer. 1. Schools use a formula for yield rate but few public schools care about yield with maybe the sub 30% admit rates being the ones who care. Also if they track demonstrated interest that is a huge factor so if you want to boost your chances just sign up for the news letter or email your regional admissions representative and ask a unique question and introduce yourself. Look up ghost college application for information about this.
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Agree
some of those colleges you listed are just as, if not more prestigious than ivy league... UChicago, UCLA, WashU, Rice are all pretty damn prestigious.
@adri really only near ivy caliber care about it and some of the top 20 liberal arts schools. And for UCs if you apply to all of them but the UC caculates your gpa at apprx a 4.0 UC Merced May practice yield protection or more likely one of the mid tier UCs such as UCSB will. Again few public schools will care about it with UCs being the main exception.
[edited]
Not sure why this is being downvoted, but this is accurate! The existence of yield protection is debated, but it's certainly something to know about and look out for.
answered on[edited]
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i’ve honestly never heard of this before and the only explanation i can give is that those colleges rejected your school’s top students because the school knew that those kids would get into better colleges and/or not attend UCI. on the reverse side, i know people who have been given full-ride scholarships to schools at which they were overqualified for, both as an incentive to stay and because they needed the money. i don’t know if it works the other away around, but it honestly depends on the school. UCI is good enough that no one would really apply as a “joke” (like the valedictorian applying to a community college just for fun) where the school would know they aren’t actually serious about attending, and thus wouldn’t accept them and take their spot away from a deserving person. these are just my thoughts, idk if any of this resonates with your school

^
how can they tell that you're not serious about attending if the essays are the same for all 9 UC undergraduate campuses?
i honestly don’t know ^^” my guess is if you’re applying to multiple UCs UCI would think “huh this person is most likely gonna get into UCB/UCLA and not attend ours so why should we accept them”... i guess if they can tell that you’re over qualified OR if you’re not genuine in your essays
answered on
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The logic that some safety schools may not send acceptance letters to high caliber students is not correct. These days colleges have sophisticated models that statistically predict the yield of students based on their academic profiles. On top of that they maintain waitlists to ensure full enrollment of their class. Therefore, don’t worry they will never reject a qualified student unless it is so obvious that it considers the universities a very safe bet and did not take the time to make a serious application. Good luck !

Actually I heard some second/third hand stories of students being rejected by Michigan but accepted to ivies wether that was AO difference in opinion or just overqualified I can’t say.
Then again Michigan isn’t a safety but flagship safety schools should not reject you except in very odd circumstances.
^ basically what i said but i concur - it’s often cause the uni knows that the student is not seriously considering them, even as a safety
[edited]
This is actually not accurate - there are schools that reportedly reject or waitlist students who are "overqualified" even if they demonstrate interest. Case Western, for instance is known for allegedly practicing "yield protection." Some students with strong profiles who even visit campus end up waitlisted (since there's no supplement, the essay doesn't factor in). I say "reportedly" and "allegedly" because the existence of yield protection is debated, but it's certainly something to consider.
If you're worried about yield protection, the best thing you can do is to demonstrate interest, but also keep in mind that schools that are known for practicing this might not actually be the best "safety" schools.
Would colleges with automatic admission practice yield protection? Like the calstates or auburn?
I think my profile is very strong for CalPoly, for instance... and since they use a complex MCA algorithm to decide admissions, if I get a high enough "score" I should be able to get in?
The Cal states and Auburn aren't historically known to practice yield protection, no. Schools that are known for it are listed above - they tend to be private, small, relatively selective (30% acceptance rate or below), and care a lot about their reputation (don't want to be seen as a "safety"). Larger, less-selective public universities tend to care less about yield, and they tend to accept primarily based on academic stats.
Of course, there are a few exceptions on the list, but for your schools, this is likely less of a concern. Hope this helps, and good luck!